USEREVIEW 092 (Capsule): If You Discover a Fire
If You Discover a Fire (Brick Books, 2020)
ISBN 978-1-77131-527-2 | 72 pp | $20 CAD | BUY Here
Like a shadowy watermark, a note of anxiety lies beneath the cool, attentive observations of Vancouver-based Shaun Robinson’s debut poetry collection, If You Discover a Fire. It is this mixed tone, a sort of muted dread, and not a common subject, that unites the poems in the book. In this, Robinson shirks the current trend towards themed poetry collections; it seems impossible to say exactly what his book ‘is about,’ beyond an articulation of a sort of generalized malaise in the contemporary world.
Many aspects of the collection — the poet’s interest in travel, the precise and detailed descriptions of varied surroundings, the speaker’s tendency to talk to himself through the intimate second-person address, the poet’s predilection for inserting direct and indirect discourse into condensed lines — call to mind the work of Karen Solie. And as in Solie’s work, I note in If You Discover a Fire a remarkable talent for figurative language. Consider, for example, the quick succession of similes and metaphors in the opening lines ‘Disaster Preparedness’:
The night wears the moon
like a headlamp, checking the city’s
expiry date, drunk students
rolling around like batteries
in a drawer as their bus mounts
the suspension bridge,
its cables a graph
‘Versus Nature’ impresses not only as an understated, yet faithfully rhymed, English-language sonnet, but also as a relatable account of regret, ending on one of the poet’s unexpected yet fitting metaphors:
The kettle comes to a boil,
and light like flat ale in a shaker glass
presses against the window and won’t pass.